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Perrier water

The EU Referendum blog links to this fascinating article about the engineering history, so to speak, of New Orleans, referring in particular to this paragraph:

The lower Mississippi is in no way a natural river anymore. A law instituted in 1724 by a French colonial governor, whose name was Perrier, of all things, demanded that early homeowners in New Orleans raise the low natural levees upon which they all built. Three year later, Perrier declared the little city floodproof.

So there you have it. Do not blame Bush. Blame France.

Not really. The situation is a deal more complex than that. But it does seem to be true that once they decided on living lower than the Mississippi River, they found that the methods they chose to protect themselves from it only served to make it rise ever higher into the air, and themselves to sink lower and lower.

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13 comments to Perrier water

  • amiort

    New Orleans / Louisiana was a French colony. What more needs to be said? Corrupt police force, large criminal/poor population …

  • Julian Morrison

    Blame government. Like I said before, a hypothetical anarchic Nouveau Orleans would have had levees built on the small scale along individual property lines, or houses built up on stilts to evade the periodic floods – rather than trying to engineer a big solution for the whole city at once. They’d never have sunk below sea level.

  • Julian Taylor

    Hmm, and when exactly did it STOP being a French colony? That’s kind of like saying that since Maryland used to be a British colony then they must all drink tea there.

    Personally I’d have thought that in the several hundred years since the French departed the US might in some way have thought out either a new way of protecting N.O or, better still, pulling down the whole city and moving it to a safer location before it got too big.

    Oh wait, the Statue of Liberty was a French gift to the US people – maybe that’s going to fall over now?

  • Jacob

    “…or houses built up on stilts to evade the periodic floods – rather than trying to engineer a big solution for the whole city at once. They’d never have sunk below sea level.”

    Good idea. What prevented people, since 1805, from implementing it ? Was it government ?

  • dearieme

    The EU contains the solution: transfer N.O. by gift to the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and all will be tickety-boo in no time at all.

  • ernest young

    Houses on stilts to combat a thirty foot wall of water! – do you people really have any remote idea of just what happened when Katrina came ashore?

    Even when an area gets flooded to depths of twenty feet or so, the garbage and other debis suspended in the flow will wreak extensive damage to the most well built of property. Imagine a submerged car moving at say 10 mph colliding with a house wall, or a window or whatever,, the damage is extensive enough to cause the subsequent destruction of the house.

    I have been through quite a few hurricanes, including Andrew, it is bad enough when all you have to contend with is 180 mph winds, when coupled with even a 10 ft storm surge, nothing stands much chance.

    In the Keys there ae extensive mangrove growths around most of the shoreline – in some cases upto 5 miles deep, all to prevent storm surge – and very effective it is too. It is illegal to even trim mangrove, for whatever reason, and results in very large fines if you cut it back.

  • AWolf

    Drowning New Orleans

    The delta that New Orleans is built on is constantly subsiding. The terrain is river sediments that go more than a mile deep before bedrock encountered, so the stilts idea can’t work because there is nothing to anchor them to. The delta normally would be replenished by deposits after flooding but the lower Mississippi is completely contained by levees and channels that result in it all being carried out to the edge of the continental shelf. Also because of flood control measures in the rest of North America, such as on the Ohio, Missouri, and Tennessee rivers, means that the amount of crap that would normally be in the river has been reduced by about 50% since 1879.

  • Julian Morrison

    ernest young: of course I do, you miss my point. With no levee system, the city would never have sunk down as it has done. There would have been storm surge, some houses would have been swept under – and the water would have run right back out the day after.

  • Julian Taylor

    But with no levee system there would not have been a New Orleans, so surely the point of your argument is therefore redundant?

  • Earnest Young

    “I have been through quite a few hurricanes, including Andrew, it is bad enough when all you have to contend with is 180 mph winds, when coupled with even a 10 ft storm surge, nothing stands much chance.”

    That may have been true of Biloxi and Gulfport. It is false in the case of New Orleans. The city did not have 180 mph winds or anything like it. It suffered only minor damage as a direct result of the storm. Almost all the damage we see now was the result of the two levee failures.

    Those levees were supposed to survive a direct hit by a Cat 3 hurricane, but actually failed in conditions rather less than that. Why that was, I do not know. But it had nothing to do with the city being overwhelmed by the forces of nature.

    Julius

  • There is a very clear similarity between the level of curruption and general attitude in NOLA (and Louisiana) and Haiti. It didn’t take much to pitch NOLA into the realm of a third world country. I know at least one Lousiana Politician (a rarity a Republican) who would argue that it was basically a 3rd world country before the hurricane hit.

    There is a serious overhang of Napolionic Law in LA. In fact there is no such thing as Marshall Law in that state. Federal assets could not be deployed in the state until there was a formal request from the governor…its called federalisation. There were national guard units from other nearby states that were not allowed in because of this.

  • napolean

    oh sorry,

    i forget to tell you the extended warranty ended last year.

    your dearest friend,

    jacque chiraq!

  • Couvillon

    For your info, the corrueption in Louisiana took off with the arrival of the Americans, moreso than with the French. The Lotto Ring; the Corrupt post civil war Bourbon- Democrats; and the Huey P. Long administration-as well as the rise of the New Orleans Mafia, were during the last hundred and fifty years. Also, it was the French Quarter(laid out and built by the French,) which was the only part of New Orleans not to flood. The portion built by Americans above Canal Street flooded…so stop cracking on the French and leave us New Orleanians alone!